Trump craps on our Constitution, rips off taxpayers and Congress does next to nothing!

❝ In early Spring of this year, an Air National Guard crew made a routine trip from the U.S. to Kuwait to deliver supplies…What wasn’t routine was where the crew stopped along the way: President Donald Trump’s Turnberry resort, about 50 miles outside Glasgow, Scotland.

Since April, the House Oversight Committee has been investigating why the crew on the C-17 military transport plane made the unusual stay — both en route to the Middle East and on the way back — at the luxury waterside resort, according to several people familiar with the incident. But they have yet to receive any answers from the Pentagon.

Trump says “Jump!” Pentagon says “How high, boss?”

❝ On previous trips to the Middle East, the C-17 had landed at U.S. air bases such as Ramstein Air Base in Germany or Naval Station Rota in Spain to refuel, according to one person familiar with the trips. Occasionally the plane stopped in the Azores and once in Sigonella, Italy, both of which have U.S. military sites, the person added.

But on this particular trip, the plane landed in [Prestwick] — a pitstop the five-man crew had never experienced in their dozens of trips to the Middle East. The location lacked a U.S. base and was dozens of miles away from the crew’s overnight lodging at the Turnberry resort.

Prestwick needs more dollar$ to keep from bankruptcy – and Trump needs Prestwick to stay in biz to even hope to jack up his overpriced Turnberry Resort to profitable.

RTFA for all the slimy details. The worst of it is the Pentagon rolling over and sticking all four feet in the air for the Fake President. Paying million$ for fuel when our military is one of the biggest providers of jet fuel in the world is absurd – and taxpayers continue to pick up the tab.

Trumpolini knows his meal ticket is getting ready to disappear. The carrion-eating flock in Congress lets him getaway with graft no president has ever tried on; so, why not push it another notch. Directly crap on Constitutional writ prohibiting payoffs and kickbacks to his business and properties. A criminal enterprise that the original constitutional congress figured might be tempting to some crooked politician. An impeachable offense written into the foundation of our laws…that the fake president not only flouts, he gets aid and comfort from brass hats in the Pentagon along the way.

Thanks to UrsaRodinia and Ignorance is Strength

Scientists have had it with the Federal Coal Program


AP/Matthew Brown

Enough, already.

That’s what 67 prominent scientists are telling Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, whose department is conducting a review of the U.S. program to lease federal lands for coal mining.

“The science is clear: to satisfy our commitment under the Paris Agreement to hold global temperature increase well below 2°C, the United States must keep the vast majority of its coal in the ground,” the scientists, including Ken Caldeira, a climate scientist at the Carnegie Institution for Science, and James Hansen from Columbia University’s The Earth Institute, wrote in a letter delivered to Jewell on Tuesday. “We urge you to end federal coal leasing, extraction and burning in order to advance U.S. climate objectives and protect public health, welfare and biodiversity.”

More than 40 percent of coal produced in the United States comes from federal lands, under a leasing program that has not been reviewed in more than 30 years.

President Obama announced the review during his State of the Union address in January, and the White House issued a report last month detailing how the American taxpayer is being short-changed by the leasing program. While coal mined on federal lands brings in millions of dollars in revenue, it is far cheaper than coal mined on private land.

But even if the government increased the terms of the leasing program — at present, taxpayers are supposed to get 12.5 percent royalty on federal coal, but audits have shown the real rate is much lower — the price would likely still not account for the environmental and climate impacts of coal mining…

Once again, taxpayers are subsidizing the most reactionary sector of American capitalism. We’re paying these pigs a profit while they continue to destroy the world’s environment.

“If they do give a full and honest look at how the federal coal program is impacting our climate — and with associated harms to public health and biodiversity — then they would have no choice but to permanently end coal leasing on public lands,” Shaye Wolf, climate science director for the Center for Biological Diversity, told ThinkProgress…

By and large, scientists agree that the vast majority of the remaining fossil fuel resources in the world must be left unburned if humankind is going to avoid raising the global temperature and causing catastrophic climate disruption.

Coal mining is certainly incompatible with maintaining a livable climate,” Wolf said.

Coal producers know what their profits do to the environment, to peoples’ lives. Anyone see the Koch Bros living downwind from one of their coal storage yards or coal-powered power generation plants?

Not a chance.

Oakland coal port scheme still lurks in the shadows

Utah has loaned four coal-producing counties $53 million to buy into the project to guarantee export throughput for coal and other commodities produced in central Utah. But coal shipments might not be welcome in Oakland.

A thick blanket of smoke has obscured the proposition to loan $53 million in state money to a private company for access to an unbuilt port in Oakland — coal smoke.

The project had shown up on the Utah Permanent Community Impact Board’s agenda last April simply as “Infrastructure — Throughput Capacity.” And when Utah’s four largest coal-producing counties pushing the loan made their pitch at that meeting, they didn’t even use the word “coal.”

Instead, the backers spent most of their time talking about how the port contract would help move “Utah products,” including alfalfa and salt. (If Utah put every hay cube it exports through that port, it would be around two percent of the port’s capacity. Utah’s loan is intended to fund one-fifth of the $275 million project.) There was also mention of potash, which none of the four counties even produce.

Just in case you were having a momentary brain fart and actually started believing what politicians say – instead of what they do.

Real-time monitoring tracks nitrate pulse in Mississippi River Basin into the Gulf of Mexico


Click to enlarge

Cutting edge optical sensor technology is being used in the Mississippi River basin to more accurately track the nitrate pulse from small streams, large tributaries and ultimately to the Gulf of Mexico.

Excessive springtime nitrate runoff from agricultural land and other sources in the Mississippi drainage eventually flows into the Mississippi River. Downstream, this excess nitrate contributes to the Gulf of Mexico hypoxic zone, an area with low oxygen known commonly as the “dead zone.” NOAA-supported researchers reported that the summer 2013 dead zone covered about 5,840 square miles, an area the size of Connecticut.

These optical sensors measure and transmit nitrate data every 15 minutes to 3 hours and are located at the mouth of the Mississippi River near Baton Rouge, LA, and at several large tributaries to the Mississippi River—including the Missouri River at Hermann, MO; Ohio River at Olmsted, IL; Ohio, Illinois River at Florence, IL; and Iowa River at Wapello, IA – to track how nitrate concentrations from different areas of the watershed pulse in response to rainfall and seasons.

About 622 million pounds of nitrogen were transported in May and June of 2013 at the Mississippi River Baton Rouge station, said Brian Pellerin, USGS research hydrologist. “This is roughly equivalent to the amount of fertilizer nitrogen applied annually to about 4 million acres of corn…”

Real-time nitrate monitoring in Iowa is being used by drinking water utilities to determine when to switch on nitrate-removal systems or when to mix water with multiple sources that have lower concentrations. Both actions result in higher costs for drinking water. “Real-time nitrate concentrations in the Raccoon River at Van Meter, Iowa, peaked at 20.7 milligrams per liter in May 2013. This is more than double the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s maximum contaminant level for drinking water,” said Kevin Richards, Director of the USGS Iowa Water Science Center.

Most Americans don’t realize the role played, the responsibility of agribusiness in polluting our water table. All this crap polluting our waterways filters through local water tables on the way to tributaries, thence to major rivers on the way to contaminating larger bodies – like the Gulf of Mexico.

You might think farmers, from the local Farmer Giles to corporate behemoths might care about cost savings derived from spend/wasting less money on fertilizer destined to be surplus drained as runoff. Don’t worry. You and I get to subsidize it one way or another. Either directly priming the pump for corporate growers – or at the grocery checkout.

Shanghai government grows subsidy for burial of cremains at sea


Scattering ashes of a loved one mixed with flower petals

The local authority has announced a fivefold increase, from 400 yuan/$64 to 2,000 yuan/$320, in subsidies to encourage Shanghai residents to consider the sea option.

Starting next year, Shanghai will subsidize families choosing a sea burial by 1,000 yuan and the another 1,000 yuan will go to pay service providers to cover costs such as ship tickets and insurance, Lu Chunling, director of funeral management under Shanghai Civil Affairs Bureau, said…”Those opting for burial at sea will save 1 square meter of land in Shanghai, and that would cost about 24,000 yuan if it was a burial plot,” said Lu.

With an increasingly elderly population and 110,000 deaths annually, Shanghai authorities and cemetery operators have been promoting sea burials since 1991…However, most people still shun the option because it is traditionally believed that the soul can find peace only when the body is buried on land…

“Sea burials in Shanghai have increased by 5 to 8 percent each year since 1991,” said Lu. The local government offered a 200 yuan subsidy for each sea burial from 2002 and raised the amount to 400 yuan in 2007.

It’s not all about money, there are cases of people opting for a sea burial without claiming anything,” said Lu. “We’re just sending the signal that it’s the most environmentally friendly way of burial and our government is encouraging residents to do it.”

Shi Hong, 34, from Zhoushan, Zhejiang province, lost his wife last year and said he chose burial at sea because both he and his wife were Buddhists and that was her last wish…”She liked the idea of a sea burial because Zhoushan (the site of one of Buddhism’s sacred mountains in China) has a relatively good location for the ceremony,” Shi said.

Makes good sense all round. Death in all societies is associated with the stoniest of primitive and superstitious beliefs – it still ain’t an easy task growing acceptance, suggesting change.

Italian government plans to tax commercial property belonging to the Catholic Church. Overdue.


Bed & Breakfast hotel run by a convent in Rome

Over the years, the Italian government has quietly passed scores of laws that benefit the Roman Catholic Church, but it is rare for it to issue a public statement announcing it intends to strip the church of privileges. The government of Prime Minister Mario Monti took that step on Wednesday, telling the European Commission that it intends to change Italian law to ensure the church pays property tax on the parts of its buildings used for commercial ends.

The church owns vast amounts of property in Italy, and the move is aimed at making sure that convents that offer bed and breakfast or church buildings that rent space to shops pay their full share of taxes.

The change — once it is formally drafted and approved by Parliament — could result in revenues of $650 million to $2.6 billion annually, according to municipal government associations. It could also set an example for other debt-strapped European countries — most notably Greece and Spain — where there is growing popular resentment over tax breaks for the church.

It would set an example for the United States – not only for Old World religions but the all-American bible belt crowd.

Even in Catholic Italy, the proposal shows the churchgoing Mr. Monti’s ability to read the national mood. Faced with their own belt-tightening and tax increases, Italians are increasingly fed up with what they see as unfair privileges — be it of the political class or the church. After new austerity measures were passed in December, 130,000 people signed an online petition calling on the government to revoke the church’s tax-exempt status…

Today, many church buildings fall into a gray area, taking advantage of a tax exemption for religious organization’s buildings even if they are largely commercial in use…

Overdue? It’s all overdue.

The only exemptions religions should have from taxation are those befitting non-profit charitable works. Period. End of discussion.

Take the time to discuss this with most folks and even the most thoroughly brainwashed True Believer will generally understand the sense of fairness that should discipline the funding of necessary government. It’s an all-in proposition. Certain work – like charity – might be exempt. Not individuals or organizations just by definition of their belief system.

Tell the FCC how you feel about sports blackouts!

As a result of the campaign by sportsfans.org and others – the FCC is asking for public comment over the next month on its sports blackout rule. The FCC’s rule props up the leagues’ own blackout rules by prohibiting cable and satellite carriers from carrying a game if local broadcasters are prohibited from carrying the game because of league blackout rules. Sports Fans Coalition and other groups have asked the FCC to eliminate this rule because we think the government shouldn’t be in the business of supporting counterproductive and unethical blackout policies.

SFC is currently creating a website to make it easier for you to submit comments to the FCC, but in the meantime, if you’re chomping at the bit to put in your two cents, please see below. Remember that your name and comments will be visible to the public, so please be respectful. But feel free to share the details of your own frustrations with blackouts.

To submit a comment:

1. Your message will need to be in the form of an attachment, so just open up a Word document, write your message and save it.
2. Click here to be redirected to the FCC’s electronic filing system.
3. Where it says proceeding number, enter 12-3.
4. Fill out the required information and attach the saved Word document with your message.
5. That’s it!

Need help with what to say? Feel free to copy or adapt this example for yourself:

It’s time to end to the sports blackout rule. It is an unnecessary and anti-consumer regulation that only benefits team owners. Fans and taxpayers have already heavily subsidized professional sports, so blackouts are unethical and punish fans who can’t afford the high cost of attending games or who don’t have the right TV provider. The government should not be in the business of propping up sports leagues’ counterproductive blackouts. Keep the games on the air!

Overdue. And a terrific example of citizen pressure on the government getting the beginning of a result. The rest is up to you…

Chickenshit commentary of the week!

Do you ever tire of articles, op-ed pieces, commentary from TV Talking Heads that avoid the point altogether? Here’s this week’s best example – Bob Greene at CNN offering a “humorous” commentary about the US Postal Service:

You seemed a little bit interested in last Sunday’s column: the one about the prospect of Saturday mail delivery being eliminated by the U.S. Postal Service.

That is what Postmaster General John E. Potter has asked Congress to authorize. Because of a budget crisis and a drastic decline in the number of items Americans send through the mail each year (an estimated 20 billion fewer items mailed this year alone), Potter wants to stop delivering mail on Saturdays.

Along with last week’s column, there was a feature where readers were invited to cast their votes on the subject (not a scientific poll, as they say; I think this means that Albert Einstein wasn’t counting the ballots).

More than 397,000 of you took the time to vote. The question was: “Would you miss Saturday mail if the Postal Service stopped delivering it?…”

Sixty-eight percent of you said you would not miss the Saturday mail if it stopped coming. Only 32 percent of you said you would miss it…

Postmaster General Potter says that getting rid of Saturday delivery would save more than $3 billion a year. My guess is that not only are they going to have to do away with Saturday mail — the time is probably coming when delivery on other days of the week will disappear, too.

So the question is not whether the days of mail delivery will be curtailed. It’s whether we will be happy about it.

The real problem hasn’t changed in 50 years. Junk mail doesn’t pay for itself.

The sleazy junk mail factories should be subsidizing the post office for all of us! From Capital One to Publishers Clearinghouse to my local Chevy Dealer’s Lucky Ignition Key – do you think these cruds look forward to shipping “the latest, greatest cookbook offer” to my front door via UPS or FedEx?

Congress will likely discover some populist lie acceptable to both Republican and Democrat lobbyists to maintain USPS subsidies. You wouldn’t want America’s biggest freeloaders to carry their own weight would you?

What I also don’t expect is an honest challenge to the corporate status quo from a smiley flack working for Time-Warner.

Cellphones replacing landlines for the poor


Leon Simmons, disabled with emphysema, has a free Tracfone

John Cobb, 59, a former commercial fisherman who is disabled with cirrhosis of the liver and emphysema, lives in a studio apartment in Greensboro, N.C., on a fixed monthly income of $674. He has been hoping to receive more government assistance, and in February, he did.

It came in the form of a free cellphone and free service.

Mr. Cobb became one of a small but rapidly growing number of low-income Americans benefiting from a new wrinkle to a decades-old federal law that provided them with subsidized landline telephone service.

In a twist, wireless carriers are receiving subsidies to provide people like Mr. Cobb with a phone and typically 68 minutes of talk time each month. It is a form of wireless welfare that puts a societal stamp on the central role played by the mobile device.

Mr. Cobb’s cellphone is a Motorola 175. “I feel so much safer when I drive. If I get sick, I can call someone. If I break down, I can call someone,” Mr. Cobb said. “It’s a necessity…”

Since November, the number of customers receiving free or subsidized wireless service has doubled to 1.4 million, he said. To be eligible for the program, known as Lifeline, a person must meet federal low-income guidelines or qualify for one of a handful of social service programs, including food stamps or Medicaid.

The opportunity has prompted interest from the nation’s biggest carriers, including Sprint Nextel and AT&T. But at the forefront is a much smaller company, Tracfone, a Florida provider of prepaid mobile service that has become the face of the fledgling subsidized cellphone.

Tracfone began providing its service, called SafeLink, in Tennessee in August and now does so in 16 states, including New York, North Carolina and Pennsylvania, and the District of Columbia, according to its Web site. Each time it enters a market — which generally requires state approval — it runs television ads telling people how easy it is to get a free Motorola phone, like Mr. Cobb’s…

Tracfone, whose paid service has 10 million subscribers, sees the Lifeline service as an opportunity to make some money but, more pointedly, to eventually convert the subsidized customers into paying ones if their fortunes turn around and they no longer qualify for a free phone.

RTFA. Lots more detail than I’m offering here. Looks like a win-win even with some exposure of how meager costs actually are for wireless providers. Certainly no reason to feel sorry for the profits drawn from marginal accounts.

Also – a landmark – with “official” recognition of how the cellphone has replaced landlines.